In an in­stant, it seemed, Mad­dox Ritch had dis­ap­peared.

The 6-year-old boy, who has au­tism, was walk­ing with his fa­ther and another person Sat­ur­day at Ran­kin Lake Park in Gastonia, N.C., near Charlotte, when he took off running, his par­ents later told police. Gastonia spokeswoman Ra­chel Bag­ley told ABC af­fili­ate WSOC that the two adults “start­ed run­ning af­ter him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since.”

For the third con­sec­u­tive day Mon­day, more than two doz­en local, state and federal law en­force­ment personnel — with help from mem­bers of the com­muni­ty — con­tinued scour­ing more than 1,400 acres in and around the park, a popular spot for picnicking, hiking and water sports. The FBI is as­sist­ing in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as search-and-res­cue crews and K-9 units comb the grounds, police helicopters search from the sky and divers look in the nearby lake, authorities said.

“We’re working around the clock with one goal in mind — and that goal is to find Maddox and to bring him home safely,” Gastonia Police Chief Robert Hel­ton said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence over the week­end, ac­cord­ing to CBS af­fili­ate WBTV.

Mad­dox, who is non­ver­bal, has blond hair, blue eyes and is 4 feet tall, ac­cord­ing to a miss­ing per­son’s post­er from the FBI. He was last seen wear­ing an orange T-shirt that read, “I am the man,” the post­er said.

Hel­ton said law en­force­ment ag­en­cies have been search­ing “nonstop” since the boy was re­port­ed miss­ing Sat­ur­day, “check­ing every area, every trail, every cor­ner."

Then the police chief pleaded with the pub­lic for help.

“If you were at Ran­kin Lake yesterday and saw Mad­dox or took vid­e­o or photos of your out­ing at Ran­kin Lake Park, we would ask that you call us,” Hel­ton said Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to WBTV. “We know a lot of people were in the park yesterday and we have spok­en to many of those people, but we have not spok­en to ev­er­y­one, and we would like to. No piece of in­for­ma­tion is too small. Some­thing you may think is in­sig­nif­i­cant could be help­ful to our case.”

He added: “If you live near the park, we are ask­ing that you search the areas around your homes for any clues to find Mad­dox. If you have a shed, a barn, a wood­ed area, please go take a look and call us im­medi­ate­ly if you find any­thing out of the or­di­nary.”

Police did not im­medi­ate­ly re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment from The Washington Post.

More than two dozen search & rescue & emergency mgmt teams have joined the search for a missing 6-year-old boy at...

Posted by Gastonia Police Department on Sunday, September 23, 2018

FBI Spe­cial A­gent Ja­son Kap­lan said dur­ing the news con­fer­ence Sun­day that “un­for­tu­nate­ly, it’s not un­com­mon for spe­cial-needs chil­dren, or a boy who has au­tism or a girl who has au­tism, to get lost or be miss­ing, so it’s some­thing we deal with un­for­tu­nate­ly with some fre­quen­cy.”

He told re­port­ers that in­ves­ti­ga­tors are con­sid­er­ing all possi­bili­ties, in­clud­ing ab­duc­tion, ac­cord­ing to WBTV.

Read more: