Police have refuted statements made by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz that the deadly bus crash that killed 25 Russian travel agents was caused by a race between two tour bus drivers.
Speaking to Israel Radio on Wednesday, police investigator Chief Superintendent Noam Bigenski said he was not aware of such suspicions adding that he did not know how Mofaz had received such an impression.
"I can't really explain it," he told the radio. "It's not something I know of from the material we've gathered so far - not of a contest and not of any wild driving on the part of the drivers or anything of the sort."
Bigenski added that the accident was still being investigated and said it was too early to place the blame on anyone.
A spokeswoman for Mofaz responded that the minister had only been repeating information he was given by police officials.
"This was not his interpretation. This is what he was told by Traffic Division chief Cmdr. Avi Ben-Hemo," she said. "Perhaps there was a mistake or misunderstanding between the investigator on the ground and the division chief."
While visiting the scene of the accident on Tuesday, Mofaz said that the crash had been caused by the two drivers arguing about who would go through a checkpoint first, which led to attempts to pass each other.
"The drivers were bullying each other. There aren't infrastructure problems on the road," Mofaz said.
Two planes with relatives of the Russian casualties and medical staff will arrive in Israel from Russia on Wednesday. Defense officials said an Israel Air Force plane will fly the dead and wounded back to Russia.
Twenty-four people died Tuesday when the bus of Russian tour operators overturned and rolled into a ravine near. Dozens more were wounded. It was one of the worst accidents in Israel's history.
Earlier tolls put the number of dead at 25 and 26, but the Russian embassy said Wednesday the final number was 24.