Two young men are presumed dead after the canoe they were riding in capsized in the middle of the night.

A 17-year-old man who was on the canoe with the pair was able to swim back to shore and alert authorities. He was treated in hospital but has since been released.

Rescue crews spent Sunday scouring Lake Wilcox in Richmond Hill for traces of the missing men but by 6 p.m., called off their efforts for the day.

Authorities say it is unlikely the men survived the frigid temperatures.

Sybel Altug, the girlfriend of one of the missing men, said she called her boyfriend's phone at around 2 a.m. That's when she learned 21-year-old Danny Montazernezam had fallen into the water.

Witnesses say the men were lighting fireworks and police say the men were drinking.

Montazernezam had bad asthma, Altug said. Alon Kulik, 19, reportedly swam back to try and save him.

Residents nearby heard calls for help at around 1:30 a.m.

"We heard, 'help, help, help' repeatedly so we called 911," said one witness.

Another resident said he saw the 17-year-old in the ambulance.

"He was in quite a state of shock," he said.

Despite searching the murky waters with sonar technology, police came up empty in their search for the missing men.

York Regional Police Duty Insp. Norm Miles told CTV Toronto the accident could have easily been prevented if only the men were wearing life jackets.

Jory Bleniak, the 17-year-old survivor, and Kulik lived in the house near the lake. Montazernezam often stayed with them overnight.

Syl Cachia, the owner of the home, said he had warned the boys about using the canoe before because it didn't belong to them.

"They made a mistake and that mistake cost them their life," he said.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness