(a) In General.—
Whenever the Commandant conducts an accident investigation of an accident involving an aircraft under the jurisdiction of the Commandant, the records and report of the investigation shall be treated in accordance with this section.
(b) Public Disclosure of Certain Accident Investigation Information.—
(1) In general.—
Subject to paragraph (2), the Commandant, upon request, shall publicly disclose unclassified tapes, scientific reports, and other factual information pertinent to an aircraft accident investigation.
(2) Conditions.—The Commandant shall only disclose information requested pursuant to paragraph (1) if the Commandant determines—
that such tapes, reports, or other information would be included within and releasable with the final accident investigation report; and
A disclosure under paragraph (1) may not be made by or through officials with responsibility for, or who are conducting, a safety investigation with respect to the accident.
(c) Opinions Regarding Causation of Accident.—Following an aircraft accident referred to in subsection (a)—
if the evidence surrounding the accident is sufficient for the investigators who conduct the accident investigation to come to an opinion as to the cause or causes of the accident, the final report of the accident investigation shall set forth the opinion of the investigators as to the cause or causes of the accident; and
if the evidence surrounding the accident is not sufficient for the investigators to come to an opinion as to the cause or causes of the accident, the final report of the accident investigation shall include a description of those factors, if any, that, in the opinion of the investigators, substantially contributed to or caused the accident.
(d) Use of Information in Civil or Criminal Proceedings.—
For purposes of any civil or criminal proceeding arising from an aircraft accident referred to in subsection (a), any opinion of the accident investigators as to the cause of, or the factors contributing to, the accident set forth in the accident investigation report may not be considered as evidence in such proceeding, nor may such report be considered an admission of liability by the United States or by any person referred to in such report.
(e) Definitions.—For purposes of this section—
the term “accident investigation” means any form of investigation by Coast Guard personnel of an aircraft accident referred to in subsection (a), other than a safety investigation; and
the term “safety investigation” means an investigation by Coast Guard personnel of an aircraft accident referred to in subsection (a) that is conducted solely to determine the cause of the accident and to obtain information that may prevent the occurrence of similar accidents.