Woman who died after Harper College motorcycle class crash remembered as kind, fun-loving

  • Carol Counelis, 66, died Saturday after a crash while she was taking a motorcycle course at Harper College in Palatine.

    Carol Counelis, 66, died Saturday after a crash while she was taking a motorcycle course at Harper College in Palatine. Courtesy of Gwendelynn Clark

Updated 10/7/2020 5:57 AM

A 66-year-old woman who died after a crash during a motorcycle class in Palatine was remembered as kind and fun-loving by her family and employer.

Carol Counelis lived in Woodridge with her spouse, Gwendelynn Clark, and getting a motorcycle license had been on her "bucket list," said attorney Jonathan Svitak of Chicago, who was retained by Clark. A report from the Cook County medical examiner's office said Counelis lived in Winfield, but the couple had moved to Woodridge, Svitak said.


Counelis, who also had two sisters, was very kind and loving, he said.

"She had a huge heart -- a heart of gold. She loved her family and loved her friends," he said, adding she was an avid reader and at one point was diagnosed with cancer. "She's going to be missed very much."

Counelis had worked since January in guest services at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, hospital spokeswoman Kim Waterman said. "Carol was hardworking, fun-loving and a kind soul. She will be missed."

Counelis was participating Saturday in a three day, three-wheel basic rider motorcycle course at Harper College in Palatine. She was one of eight students in the class, all of whom were wearing helmets, college spokeswoman Kim Pohl said.

Counelis hit a curb and was thrown from the motorcycle, Pohl said. She was taken to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, where she was pronounced dead.

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Harper police, with assistance from Palatine police, were conducting an investigation and had no plans to issue arrests or citations, Pohl said. Palatine police referred questions to the college.

"As of right now, we don't have any reports or anything from the Palatine police or the police from Harper College," Svitak said. "We are going to look into it, see if we can figure out what happened, and then go from there."

The motorcycle course is part of the cycle rider safety training program coordinated by the Illinois Department of Transportation and hosted and managed by colleges statewide. Harper College administers all the program's courses in northern Illinois. The college said it canceled the remainder of the motorcycle safety training season at all its sites out of respect for Counelis' family.

Harper has been running the program for six years, and this is the first time an injury resulted in a fatality, Pohl said. The three-wheel basic rider class Saturday featured two instructors and an aide who helped set up the cones and motorcycles, as is standard for such classes, Pohl said. The instructors and aides are hired by the college, and the instructors are certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, she said.


Counelis used a training program motorcycle, Pohl said. "The three-wheel motorcycles used as part of the training are on loan to the college from area dealerships. Maintenance is performed by the dealerships," she said.

This is believed to be the first fatality of IDOT's cycle rider safety training program, and the agency is cooperating with local authorities as they conduct their investigation, agency spokesman Guy Tridgell said.

The program "has been a cornerstone of IDOT's safety efforts for almost 50 years, providing invaluable training to thousands of riders throughout the state. Our thoughts are with all of those impacted by this weekend's tragic incident," Tridgell said in a statement.

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