updated 10/25/2005 9:09:28 AM ET 2005-10-25T13:09:28

A lawsuit filed by Teresa Heinz Kerry after her first husband died in a midair collision in 1991 was settled for $15 million, according to newly unsealed court records.

She sued the owners of the airplane on which her husband was traveling, as well as the owners of the helicopter involved in the crash.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, errors in judgment by pilots of both aircraft caused the crash that killed Sen. John Heinz and six others — including two first-graders on the ground.

Attorneys for The Philadelphia Inquirer sought to unseal the settlement papers last year when Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., ran for president; Kerry married Heinz's widow in 1995.

At first, attorneys for the Heinz estate tried to prevent the court records from being unsealed, citing the family's need for security and privacy.

A judge unsealed portions of the file in October 2004 and attorneys for the Heinz estate appealed his ruling. The case was settled this month, according to William H. Lamb, who represented the Heinz estate.

The 1997 settlement states that $3 million would go to Heinz Kerry as co-executor of the Heinz estate. The remaining $12 million was paid to Heinz Kerry and the couple's three sons, John IV, Andrew and Christopher, according to court records.

The wrongful-death lawsuit alleged that the owner of the helicopter, Sun Co. Inc., of Philadelphia; and Lycoming Air Services Inc., of Montoursville, Lycoming County, the plane's owner, had failed to properly train their flight crews.

Heinz Kerry is heiress to the Heinz Co. food fortune, estimated last year to be worth $500 million.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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