Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 4:15 pm | Updated: 4:32 pm, Tue Apr 19, 2011. BY MITCHELL VANTREASE, DAILY NEWS-SUN Juanita Lawless remained in shock Tuesday afternoon following the death earlier in the day of Leonard Gaabo, her neighbor and friend. Gaabo, 85, died from severe injuries after the driver of a vehicle on Monday struck the golf car the Sun City West man was driving. The driver fled the scene, officials said. “This is quite a loss for his family and all of us who know him,” Lawless said. Lawless said she sat at the hospital Monday with his wife, Virginia, as they waited for Gaabo to come out of surgery. She then went home and received a phone call Tuesday morning that he died. At 1:07 p.m. Monday, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office responded to a hit-and-run accident at North Tanglewood and West Yosemite drives in Sun City West. MCSO spokesman Jeff Sprong said Gaabo was driving his 1993 golf car north on Tanglewood, approaching the intersection at Yosemite. A red or maroon four-door Jeep Cherokee with minor damage to the driver’s side had been traveling westbound on Yosemite and struck the golf car, he said. The driver of the sports utility didn’t stop and left the area. According to witnesses, Sprong said, the license plate contains the letters and numbers “AH156” in an unknown sequence. The driver is described as a Hispanic male in his mid 20s to early 30s with a crew haircut. Paramedics transported Gaabo to John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital in Phoenix with life-threatening injuries. “I still can’t even believe that it happened,” said Lawless. “He was such a happy and outgoing person, who would help whenever we needed it.” The day of the accident, Lawless said she remembered when Gaabo left the neighborhood with his golf car for the last time. “He had just gone golfing and was taking his golf car in for service,” she said. “My son told me he talked with him at his job at the Garden Cafe and within minutes the accident happened.” For Lawless, Gaabo’s accident hits close to home. Her son was involved in a golf car accident with another vehicle, but he wasn’t injured. “I’m so scared for myself and my son to drive a golf car,” she said. “I think it’s just plain cruel that the driver wouldn’t even stop when he hit Leonard.” Sprong said it’s important for all drivers in automobiles and golf cars to be aware of their surroundings. “You really have to be cognizant of who is on the road, especially in a senior community,” Sprong said. Anyone with information, should call the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office at 602-876-1011.
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