Polish native, accused of Strabane lorry-drivers death, passes away in Poland

Police are investigating reports that a Polish native accused of causing the death of a Strabane lorry driver has died in his homeland.

56-year-old George Rataj of Milesiam Court, Swords in Co Dublin was charged in connection with the death of 43-year-old Declan Harvey who was killed in a two lorry collision close to Sion Mills on November 10 last year.

Last month Mr Rataj’s solicitor Ciaran Rafferty made an application at Omagh Magistrates Court for his client to be allowed to journey to Poland between February 22 and 24.

Judge Greg McCourt granted the application and handed Mr Rataj back his passport on the grounds that the defendant had turned up at court on previous occasions.

It is now understood however that one of Mr Rataj’s relatives contacted the PSNI last week to say that the 56-year-old had passed away during his visit to Poland.

A PSNI spokesperson has confirmed that they had received information that the defendant had passed away.

They added that enquiries were ongoing to establish the accuracy of the information.

Solicitor Ciaran Rafferty said he too was actively working to verify reports of his client’s death. Mr Rafferty said the information he had received was that Mr Rataj had passed away of a heart attack.

While this has yet to be confirmed, it is known that the 56-year-old spent almost a fortnight in Altnagelvin’s cardiac unit when he suffered heart problems following the fatal collision.

Mr Rafferty said that he was currently waiting on a death certificate to be forwarded by Mr Rataj’s son Eric.

Once that is in his possession, Mr Rafferty said he intends to present at Omagh Magistrates Court.