Playwright Tennessee Williams choked to death on a bottle cap of the type used in nasal spray or eye solution dispensers, New York City's chief medical examiner said yesterday.

Dr. Elliot Gross said an autopsy on the 71-year-old Williams showed the death appeared to be accidental.

He would not elaborate on the bottle cap. "Why it was there, I can't say," he said.

Williams was found dead Friday morning in his room at the Hotel Elysee in Manhattan. "There was no indication of foul play" in the death, which occurred late Thursday, Gross said.

The body of Williams, who won Pulitzer Prizes for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," was found by his secretary.

An empty wine bottle and some pills were found in the room, according to police, but Gross refused to comment on whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the death. He said chemical tests would be done over the next few weeks.

Gross said the cap "lodged in the upper air passage" just below the opening to the larynx, indicating Williams had swallowed it.

Gross said Williams, who has been plagued by a history of with health problems, was in acceptable physical condition "for a man of his age."

Gross refused to detail any circumstances surrounding the death. "I can't conjecture on the death," he said.