"I used to count the miracles": Battle of the Badges benefits FWC officer after crash

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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) -- Lacing up sneakers and shooting free throws, members of the law enforcement community in North Central Florida came together Friday night to support an FWC officer who miraculously survived a deadly crash last August.

After the crash, Plussa received patches from law enforcement agencies around the world, from Marion County, Fla. to Ukraine and Canada.

The annual Battle of the Badges basketball tournament, which has taken place for three years now, has a different beneficiary yearly. This time, Kyle Plussa, affectionately known as 'Big Bear,' was chosen.

On August 3, 2018, Plussa was driving a U-Haul truck in North Naples, following his fiancée as the two moved their belongings to their first home together. Plussa's truck was hit head-on by a driver who was later found to be on cocaine.

"Medical science says I should be a vegetable... or dead," Plussa said.

After the crash, Plussa was left with a list of injuries: level three severe traumatic brain injury, swelling in the brain, three brain hemorrhages, nerve damage to the brain stem, loss of hearing in one ear and nearly a dozen fractures in his neck and face.

Plussa's forehead was cracked open, relieving pressure to the brain as paramedics responded.

The driver of the vehicle that collided with Plussa died in the crash. Doctors said Plussa remained in a coma for a month, with his fiancée by his side. He faced a 10% chance of survival.

"I used to count the miracles. My legal wife to be has just told me that 'Kyle, you're Big Bear, you're one big miracle," Plussa said.

That miracle came in the form of three hand squeezes, a sign to his fiancée that he was awake and alert, even though he couldn't move.

Nearly 10 months after the crash that changed his life, Plussa has beaten doctors' expectations, regaining motor functions, walking, speaking, and on administrative duties at the FWC.

"They told him he might never walk again, might never speak again, let alone work again," said Plussa's friend Kyle Kern. "And he has just beaten all of that and its just incredible."

Kern, an officer with the Ocala Police Department, is the organizer of Battle of the Badges. Kern spoke to Plussa after he regained some speaking and motor skills, and soon after Kern knew Plussa should be the beneficiary of funds raised at Battle of the Badges.

"That's one of the greatest things of being a first responder is just the family, the brotherhood, the sisterhood that goes with it," Kern said. "When something like this happens to one of us we just all kind of pull together and its great."

Since the crash, Plussa has received patches from law enforcement agencies around the state, country and world. He has also become a motivational speaker, working with M.A.D.D. and speaking as an advocate against drunk and impaired driving.

"I'm very blessed," Plussa said. "I'm very thankful to be here. Every day I wake up."

Battle of the Badges features 14 teams playing at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, and will last through the day Saturday. The Marion County Sheriff's Office has hosted the event since it was created.