Wall Street Executive, 49, Killed by Tiger Shark During Costa Rica Vacation
Rohina Bhandari was mauled by a tiger shark while on a scuba diving trip with a group of tourists on Thursday in Costa Rica
A New York equity executive was mauled by a tiger shark last week while scuba diving off the coast of Costa Rica with friends, officials have announced.
Rohina Bhandari, a 49-year-old director at a New York City private equity firm, died on Thursday when a tiger shark attacked the group on Cocos Island National Park, hundreds of miles off the coast, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy announced in a statement on Friday.
She suffered “strong lacerations” to both her legs, officials added. The statement only identified Bhandari using her last name.
“Rohina was kind, gentle and full of grace. She was also fun, we laughed a lot,” Bhandari’s friend, Silvia Francescon, tells PEOPLE, adding that she was in “total shock” when she first got the news. “I was devastated not only by her death, but about how it happened.”
Bhandari was heading to the surface at the Manuelita dive site when her diving guide noticed the shark, the Washington Post reports. The guide, identified in the statement only Jiménez, unsuccessfully tried to scare the shark away. Jiménez was in stable condition in the wake of the attack, but suffered a shark bite on one of his legs.
Officials called the attack an “isolated incident,” calling it the “first occurrence of this magnitude” at the park.
Bhandari was part of a group of 18 tourists who visited the island on the trip led by tourism company Undersea Hunter Group, according to Costa Rican newspaper La Nación. A spokesperson for the company told the publication that officials are in “shock” and are working with the victim’s family.
Bhandari was a senior director at the Manhattan firm WL Ross & Co. and Francescon says she was brilliant both in and out of the office.
“Notwithstanding her bright career, Rohina was a very humble person,” she tells PEOPLE. “I will miss her courage … She challenged herself in the deepest way. And she succeeded. All of this is surreal. She deserves to be remembered for her grace and kindness. A beautiful soul.”
A spokesperson for the firm tells PEOPLE that Bhandari had worked with the company for four years and quit in October.
“We were saddened to learn of the death of Rohina who was a dear friend and colleague,” a spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE. “We ask that everyone respect the privacy of her family during this difficult time.”
Several more friends remembered Bhandari in social media posts.
“Desperately sad to hear of the tragic and untimely passing this week of my dear friend Rohina Bhandari,” Jon Benjamin wrote in a Facebook post. “Always generous and gregarious, she was a mainstay of social life in NYC a decade ago, visited us in Chile and so kindly lent us her apartment in NYC in July this year, also hosting a party for us. One of a kind.”
Another wrote in a post: “RIP Rohina Bhandari you were one of a kind, You will Be truly missed my friend!”
Bhandari’s family is grieving and declined to comment on the death to India’s Bangalore Mirror.