Editor's note: The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating exactly what occurred on Oct. 28 when Mathew Papaleo was injured, according to spokesman Tony Cipolla. Two of three witnesses who spoke with the Sheriff’s Office said the incident occurred on the grounds of Tap It Brewing while a third said it occurred down the street, Cipolla said. All three witnesses gave different versions of the incident, although each of the three indicated it was playful in nature.
Mathew Papaleo went to a Halloween costume party at Tap-It Brewery in San Luis Obispo dressed in Oakland Athletics attire looking to have a good time with his roommates and friends.
But after a friendly grapple around 10 p.m. Friday, the 21-year-old man from Fresno is now fighting for his life.
Papaleo, whom his friends call “Mateo,” and a friend were playfully wrestling when they both slipped and fell. Papaleo fell back and hit the back of his head on the concrete.
“He popped up and we asked him if he was OK,” said Paul Italiano, one of Papaleo’s roommates who was at the event. “He said he was fine but he was holding the back of his head. I knew he wasn’t OK because of how it sounded. After a couple of minutes he went unconscious.”
He said he was fine, but he was holding the back of his head. I knew he wasn’t OK because of how it sounded. After a couple of minutes, he went unconscious.
Paul Italiano, Mathew Papaleo’s roommate
Papaleo’s friends rushed him to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he is in a medically induced coma while recovering from two brain surgeries. As of Wednesday, Papaleo was in critical condition in intensive care, said Ron Yukelson, Sierra Vista’s spokesman.
He responds to his friends’ voices with physical movements. Italiano said that he has been visiting Papaleo every day and talking to him in a whisper, as suggested by hospital staff.
Papaleo, a Union Bank employee on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo who has been attending classes at Cuesta College, had consumed an estimated six to eight beers along with his friends, Italiano said.
To help his Fresno family pay the medical bills, his roomates have set up a Go Fund Me account.
The roommates feel badly about what happened, Italiano said, and have been in contact with his father, whom The Tribune could not immediately reach.
Italiano added that the incident is a lesson for everyone to be careful.
Italiano and Papaleo were active outdoorsmen who hiked and mountain biked, and never had any injuries from these potentially more dangerous activities.
“I’ve mountain biked and skiied and crashed hundreds of times,” Italiano said. “It’s really unfortunate that something like this could cause such a serious injury.”
A Go Fund Me account has been set up in Mathew Papaleo’s name to help pay for medical costs. To contribute, go to https://www.gofundme.com/mathew-mateo-papaleo.