A couple have spoken of their heartache after their tiny nine-day-old son lost his brave battle for life.

Daniel Steinberger was born three-and-a-half months premature to former East Lancashire health and beauty student Leanne and her American husband Michael.

But after coming into the world at just 1lb 10ozs, and a short life spent hooked up to a ventilator, he passed away in the couple’s arms.

Leanne’s mother Wendy Hurst, from Barnoldswick, has flown over to the States to help support the 27-year-old and Michael, at their home near San Benardino, California.

The Steinbergers kept a bedside vigil and as he reached a week old the baby’s condition appeared to stabilise. But on the ninth day they received a call from the hospital and medics told them they could do nothing more for little Daniel.

Leanne said: “Our hearts are broken. I’ve never felt pain like it before in my life. I cannot understand how everything went from being so great to such a nightmare.

“One minute I’m planning a baby shower, maternity photo shoots, etc, and now we are planning our baby’s funeral.”

Her plight has touched the hearts of friends back in East Lancashire, who are backing an appeal in Daniel’s memory to meet hospital and funeral costs.

Ex-schoolfriend Nikita Smith, who attended West Craven High with Leanne, has arranged a “Nine Miles for Nine Days” fancy dress walk from Barnoldswick to Colne in memory of Daniel.

Nikita, 28, who now lives in Colne with husband Norman and eight-year-old son Dominic, said: “There was nothing I could do to take the pain away

“But obviously they don’t have an NHS over there and there are still some medical bills and the cost of Daniel’s funeral.

“They have been trying for a baby for so long and they are a really lovely couple.”

An appeal in California, supported by family and friends over there, has so far collected more than £1,200 of their £1,500 target. The couple have planned a small service for Daniel.

Leanne, who first met Michael in 2007 and was married in April 2010, has said she and her husband have amazing friends and detailed their heartache on an appeal website.

Nikita, who also studied health and beauty with Leanne at Craven College, said that she has been “overwhelmed” by the response to her fancy dress walk plans.

It will take place next Sunday, January 26, from 9am, setting off from Barnoldswick Library en-route to The Langroyd, in Colne, before returning to the West Craven town.

Would-be walkers can pick up sponsorship forms at Shambles and Katie’s Nail Salon, in Barnoldswick, and the Co-op food store in Colne.

To donate, visit http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/support-an-amazing-family-and-there-premature-baby-daniel/114334.

A tribute to baby Daniel is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UCHed4R1Bo