Rach Baker: British tourist pictured enjoying plane ride in Australia moments …

Smiling widely for the camera, British tourist Rach Baker looks to be having the time of her life as she explores the Australian coastline from a private plane.

But just minutes after the picture was taken, the 25-year-old was left fighting for her life when the aircraft suddenly plummeted to the ground and crashed into a lake.

She and the other five passengers began to panic and scramble for the exits of the single-engine Piper Cherokee 6 but Rach’s seatbelt became stuck, preventing her escape.

Ms Baker and a friend were both left gasping for breath in a tiny pocket of air at the top of the plane.

Finally, after swimming to find another exit, her friend Chad jumped back into the lake and was able to drag her by her hair from the water at Lakeside Airfield, near Proserpine, in Queensland.

The young tourist suffered fractured vertebrae and is being treated in hospital.

Speaking from her hospital bed, Rach, who used to live in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, said: “Once the doors opened it filled very quickly and I can’t remember the others getting out, but I remember it being me and my friend being the last two in there and we were both gasping for this tiny pocket of air at the top of the plane, and she looked as terrified as I felt.

“All I could think at this point was ‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die’. She was then pulled from the wreckage and it was just me.

Metro News and Features Rach Baker: British Tourist Pictured Enjoying Plane Ride In Australia Moments ... The plane sank into the water resulting in Ms Baker being pulled out by her hair

“Finally my friend Chad grabbed me and managed to pull me out by my hair – he had come back down for me and saved my life.

“I’m just so happy to be alive and well enough to tell this story myself and feel like it’s a miracle that I have no permanent damage.”

The crash happened at about 4pm on Sunday and Rach, who grew up in Hampshire has been recuperating in hospital since.

She has travelled in Australia, Cambodia and Vietnam for a number of years and returned to beauty spot Airlie Beach, on the north-east coast of Australia.

Until the crash she worked on a tourist boat called Wings and hosted trips around the Whitsunday Islands of the Great Barrier Reef and says that despite her injuries she would like to remain in the country until her visa expires in February.

Metro News and Features Rach Baker: British Tourist Pictured Enjoying Plane Ride In Australia Moments ... The type of plane Rach Baker was flying in

Her father James Baker, a construction manager, was shocked when he heard the news but relieved to discover his daughter wasn’t more seriously injured in the crash.

He said: “I know that she has been quite traumatised by not just the impact, but the experience of feeling that she was going to drown.

“I’m just hoping that she doesn’t have any long-lasting post-traumatic stress disorder.

“She’s very sociable and she’s got a lot of friends around here. She came home recently for two weeks visit and it was lovely to see her.”

Lifelong friend Jodie Brown, who had previously travelled with Rach in Australia, said she was considering setting up a fund to help Rach recover from her injuries more easily.

She said: “I was really shocked when I heard the news.

They are looking after her really well out there but she’s a bit scared and quite traumatised, and keeps having nightmares.”

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