By Darran Simon and Ray Sanchez, CNN
(CNN) — A body believed to be that of a 6-year-old boy with autism who went missing after his father lost sight of him at a North Carolina park has been found, the FBI in Charlotte tweeted Thursday.
“With heavy hearts we announce a body believed to be 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was found at approximately 1 p.m. off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia,” the FBI said.
“Maddox’s parents have been notified of the discovery. The investigation is ongoing.”
The city of Gastonia tweeted that identification of the remains will be done by the medical examiner’s office
The discovery came as the search for the missing boy — who is nonverbal — entered its sixth day
Hours before the Thursday’s discovery, the FBI tweeted that an “Underwater Search & Evidence Response Team is in the water at Rankin Lake Park” as part of the search.
The FBI and city officials were to hold a news conference at 4 p.m.
On Saturday, Maddox took off running during a walk around the lake at a Gastonia park, a police spokeswoman said. Maddox’s father, Ian Ritch, said he and a friend were walking in the park when his son ran ahead, likely triggered by a passing jogger. Maddox was about 25 to 30 feet away when he broke into a sprint, Ritch said.
Ritch said he “was giving him just a little leeway, freedom” when he let him run up ahead, but he had a clear view of his son.
Maddox often runs ahead of him but would usually slow down and stop to give him time to catch up, Ritch said.
“I couldn’t catch up with him. I feel guilty for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him,” Ritch told reporters on Wednesday.