"We had a whiteout scene with the snow, and obviously a single-vehicle accident caused multiple-vehicle accidents, which continued to pile up due to the low visibility," he said.
While the state public safety department said three people were killed, Wilson said there were two. Neither could immediately clear up the confusion.
Wilson said 15 people had to be extracted from their vehicles with hydraulic equipment or hand tools. He said 49 patients, 11 of them critical, were taken to Flagstaff Medical Center.
Hospital spokeswoman Starla Addair said it was too early to comment on the status of the patients, but said the hospital was handling the amount of patients well.