Hamilton, 54, was pronounced dead at 1:16 p.m. after being transported off the mountain at Keystone Ski Area, about 70 miles west of Denver. According to reports, Hamilton had complained of having chest pains to the friends he was skiing with, reports the Summit Daily News. Hamilton's circumstances were consistent with an underlying heart-related medical condition, the coroner said.
Hamilton, who was sworn in as FWS director in September, was praised by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for his long service and leadership. Salazar issued the following statement:
"The Interior Department family has suffered a great loss with the passing of Sam Hamilton. Sam was a friend, a visionary and a professional whose years of service and passionate dedication to his work have left an indelible mark on the lands and wildlife we cherish. His forward-thinking approach to conservation — including his view that we must think beyond boundaries at the landscape-scale — will continue to shape our nation's stewardship for years to come..."
Before leading the Fish and Wildlife Service, Hamilton directed the agency’s Southeast Region in Atlanta, Georgia, overseeing efforts to restore coastal wetlands, wildlife refuges and other habitat areas that were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the agency said.
Hamilton first began working with the FWS when he was 15, as a member of the Conservation Corps in Mississippi.