Community shows support for missing boy at vigil

GASTONIA, N.C. — A community is hurting and hoping for a miracle for Maddox Ritch, the boy with special needs who disappeared Saturday as he walked with his father at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia.

Please contact police if you have any information on Maddox's whereabouts. The 24-hour tip line is 704-869-1075.

Citizens, who are not allowed to help search the park, wanted to show their support by holding a vigil Wednesday night.

“It's just hard when it’s here in your community,” resident Liz Hyde told Channel 9 at the vigil.

The community prayed at the vigil for Maddox, his family and first responders who have been desperately searching for the 6-year-old boy.

[PHOTOS: Wednesday night vigil for missing boy from Gastonia park]

“This little boy, he's got a lot of people who love him,” resident Joe McFann said.

Members of the FBI dive team will be back out on the lake Thursday morning. They will use different equipment than what has been used in previous searches of the water.

“We want to make sure we employ every available tool to thoroughly search the lake,” Gastonia officials said.

['It's torture': Father of missing boy publicly pleads for help in search]

The lake is still being drained, which will soon make it impossible to put large boats in the water.

To receive the latest alerts on the search for Maddox, download the WSOCTV news app and tap the blue "Maddox Ritch" tag.

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said they've searched thousands of acres, drained the lake and conducted hundreds of interviews. Helton says investigators still want to speak to a jogger, a person who was pulling a kayak out of the lake and anyone in a group photographing three children in Dr. Seuss costumes.

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